Eni calls on all to keep our tuna industry healthy
With American Samoa losing its place as the world’s top tuna producing country in the world due to more cannery operations opening up around the globe, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni has called on the local government and Fono to work closely with StarKist management in order for the territory to remain competitive in this global market.
Faleomavaega was among the six speakers at Saturday’s 50th Anniversary of StarKist Samoa held at Veterans Memorial Stadium, whose lush green grassy field turned several areas into large pools of water following heavy rain during entertainment by StarKist Samoa workers.
At the outset of his remarks, Faleomavaega led the crowd in the traditional Samoan song, “Ua fa’afetai, ua fa’afetai” dedicated to Jae Chul Kim, owner and chairman of the South Korean-based Dongwon Industries, owner of StarKist Co., and StarKist Samoa.
Faleomavaega also said that he met last month in Seoul with South Korean’s newly elected president. He says he has developed a “tremendous love and affection” for the people of Korea and in doing so, he sang a Korean song, dedicated to Mr. Kim and all the members of the local Korean community.
Mr. Kim and other members of the Starkist board from Korean joined in singing the song from the grandstand.
After the song, Faleomavaega thanked Mr. Kim for investing in American Samoa, saying that Mr. Kim has “compassion for our Samoan people.” He also said he looks forward to working with Mr. Kim and Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga “in ensuring that StarKist continues to operate in American Samoa for another 50 years.”
According to the Congressman, the arrival of StarKist Samoa in the territory 50 years ago provided many jobs “for our Samoan people and American Samoa became one of the leading producers of canned tuna in the world.”
He estimates that canneries have exported from the territory tens of billions of dollars worth of canned tuna to the U.S. and around 80% of the local economy is directly or indirectly dependent on this industry.
“...all of this economic success was made possible, because of the hard work of our Samoan workers. In many ways the success of the U.S. tuna industry in American Samoa was built on the backs of Samoan women, who worked hard, and tirelessly for their children, and families,” he said to the applause from the crowd.
“I see their untiring dedication as they stand in their white uniforms waiting on the side of the road late at night or early mornings to make it to work for their early shifts, where they stand for hours and hours cleaning and cutting fish,” he said.
The Congressman told the audience that it is now a matter of fact that the tuna industry in American Samoa is not destined to last forever. “Increased demand in the U.S. market has attracted foreign competition and canneries are changing their production process to lower costs,” he pointed out.
He says times have changed since StarKist first opened in 1963. He pointed out that American Samoa is now competing in the global tuna market with canneries in Thailand, the European Union countries, Ecuador, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“While we used to hold the title of the world’s largest tuna producer, we have now dropped to sixth place,” behind Thailand, Ecuador, the Philippines, Spain and Mexico, he said and noted, “more countries are boosting their production.”
In a recent study, he says Thailand alone produces 736,000 metric tons of canned tuna per year, or 24% of the global production, while American Samoa was shown to produce only 132,000 metric tons or 4%.
“I don’t want to give you not a positive message, but for the future, it is all the more necessary for our Fono, our governor and our American Samoa government to work closely with Mr. Kim and StarKist management team to make sure that we become competitive in this global market,” he concluded.
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